Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Ling Li's Lantern by Steve Heron illustrated by Benjamin Johnston

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” 

Martin Luther King Jr quoted by Steve Heron interview with Just Kid Lit

The wise man of the village has three children. He wants them to be good, kind and honest "but above all he wanted them to obtain wisdom."  Da Zhi sets his children a challenge. He takes them to the three pagodas and gives them each a small sum of money:

"With these coins, your task is to fill the emptiness of one of these pagodas with anything. You only have one day. Spend wisely."

The first son, Jingming, invests in huge quantities of bamboo. He pays workers to fill the pagoda right to the top with sticks and leaves. His father is pleased declaring this is a sound investment. The second son, Miao, buys feathers and down from a village duck farm. He fills the pagoda with sacks of feathers. His father is pleased with Miao's hard work.

The third child is Ling Li. She walks into the village where she sees a young boy sobbing because the eggs he was taking home have been dropped and all of them are broken. Ling Li takes his hand and back in the market she buys another basket of eggs for the boy. She continues to wander through the market where she sees a little girl who is lost and hungry. Ling Li buys the little girl some bamboo rice and then helps the child to find her mother. Next Ling Li sees a magician performing for the crowd. No one gives him any money - his bowl is empty so Ling Li gives him a few coins to thank him for his entertainment. Then Ling Li sees an old lady selling necklaces. After talking Ling Li with her discovers the lady has not sold any of her work today. 

"Ling Li placed a coin in her hand. ... Ling Li had bought a smile to everyone she met that day."

But what of the task set by her father? Ling Li only has two coins left and night is falling. She sees a lantern seller. Since it is the end of the day he agrees to sell her a lantern for her last two coins. She arrives home feeling that she has disappointed her father:

"Without a word, Da Zhi put his arm around Ling Li and led her inside. As they walked into the pagoda, Da Zhi held up the lantern. ... 'Not only have you filled the pagoda with the light from the lantern, you have also filled the village with the light from your heart. This is special wisdom."

When I start a post about a book I like to research the author and illustrator. I had not heard of Steve Heron or Benjamin Johnston but here are some things I discovered:

Steve Heron

  • lives in Western Australia
  • awarded an OAM for his contribution to the social and emotion well being of children
  • he has published a middle grade novel in 2018 called Maximus

Benjamin Johnston

  • is the illustrator of My Grandad marches on ANZAC Day
  • he lives in Melbourne
  • he is an architect

Take a look here to see some of the illustrations from Ling Li's Lantern. Look for a link to an extensive and thoughtful set of teaching notes for Ling Li's Lantern and a book trailer. I highly recommend Ling Li's Lantern as an essential purchase for a school library. I predict Ling Li's Lantern will be included in the CBCA 2021 Notable titles.

While the theme of this story may be familiar, it’s refreshing to read this modern interpretation which demonstrates that some values are timeless and universal. The Bottom Shelf

This beautiful story, reading like a fable telling us of the true nature of wisdom, the things learnt from the tale reflect Ling Li's traits; compassion, sharing, empathy, and these outshine those of her brothers only interested in making a sound investment. Read Plus

Like many of the best picture books, this is a deceptively simple tale, with a timely message of kindness. Charming Language

I found this extensive list of Chinese folktales many of which you are sure to find in a library. I would link Ling Li's Lantern with these books:

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